Have you ever had the bottom drop out of life? Without warning, one problem after another hits you in rapid succession.
The New Testament book of James points out two varieties of trials and troubles that can come our way: those we bring on ourselves and those that come through no fault of our own. James, the half brother of Jesus, was writing to the 12 tribes of Israel that had been scattered abroad.
They were no longer ruling Israel as in days of old. Israel was under Roman occupation, and many of these Jews were suffering.
James was seeking to encourage them, so he wrote, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials” (James 1:2 NKJV). What kind of thing is that to say to people who are suffering? Is it like saying, “Cheer up! Put on a happy face” or “Don’t worry, be happy”? Is that what James was saying? Yes and no. He was encouraging his readers to rejoice. But there’s a reason for what he was saying.
First let’s understand what James wasn’t saying. He wasn’t suggesting that we should be experiencing all-encompassing emotions of joy or happiness in times of hardship. Nor was he demanding that his readers enjoy their difficulties in life. James wasn’t saying that trials themselves are a joy, because usually they are not. Rather, James was saying, “Make a deliberate and careful decision to experience joy in your troubles and trials.”
Is that even possible? It isn’t easy, but it is possible. We see a good illustration of this in the book of Acts when Paul and Silas were thrown into prison for preaching the gospel. They had been beaten and fastened into chains, and there in that dark dungeon, they began to sing praises to God at midnight. That is a description of two people who decided to rejoice in spite of their circumstances.
“The J. B. Phillips New Testament” puts these first verses of James this way: “When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives my brothers, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends!” There are lessons to be learned in times of trial. In fact, there are lessons that only can be learned in times of trial.
Sometimes we walk into trials and problems of our own making, which are the direct result of our own selfishness, pride, greed, or lust. So many times when we go out and break one of God’s commandments, we get angry at him when we reap the results of our sin. Why are you doing this to me, God?
But God is saying, “Listen, friend, you’re just reaping what you’ve sown. You’ve brought this on yourself.”
We create a lot of our problems. There is no doubt about it. We forge the links of small, compromising actions, and before we know it, we’ve wound mighty chain around ourselves and we’re helpless. We think we can handle sin. We think it’s a small thing. But one of these days it grows up and overpowers us.
But there are also trials that come from God himself. James continues, “The testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (1:3–4 NKJV). Or, as “The J. B. Phillips New Testament” says, “But let the process go on until that endurance is fully developed, and you will find you have become men of mature character.”
One of the first things we usually ask when the bottom drops out is, “Why God? Why are you allowing this to happen to me? What have I done to deserve this?”
When you’re going through times of hardship, there is nothing wrong with asking, “Lord, what are you trying to teach me? Is there a lesson to be learned here?”
When I was in school, sometimes my teachers would announce, “Class, I’m going to give you a pop quiz.” God brings pop quizzes into our lives as well. And he rarely, if ever, announces them ahead of time.
It’s important for us to know that God does have lessons that he wants us to learn in times of trouble. Many times it is simply to see whether we’ve learned the material.
We think we know certain things, and we’re so quick with an answer for everyone else when they’re going through difficulties. But then one day God says to us, “Let’s see how well you’re learning the material. Let’s see if you’ve been listening. Time for a pop quiz.”
Why would God do this to us? Because God wants us to have endurance. He wants us to have staying power. He wants us to have fortitude and toughness. God wants iron to enter our souls. Otherwise, we’ll be spiritual lightweights.
I read about a traveler who was visiting a logging area in the Pacific Northwest. He watched with great curiosity as a logger working alongside a mountain stream would periodically jab his sharp hook into a passing log and separate it from the others. The visitor could not see any pattern for how the lumberjack chose certain logs and let others go by.
So the visitor asked him what he was doing. The logger replied, “These logs may all look alike to you, but I can recognize that a few of them are quite different. The ones that I let pass by grew in a valley where they were always protected from the storms. Their grain is rather coarse. But the logs I’ve pulled aside come from high up on the mountains. They were beaten by strong winds from the time they were quite small. This toughens the trees and gives them a fine grain. We save these logs for choice work. They are too good to be used for ordinary lumber.”
Everyone goes through tragedy. Everyone goes through hardships. But for Christians, whatever comes into our lives comes first through the grid of God’s plans and purposes for us. That means there are no accidents in the life of a believer and that he ultimately will work all things together “for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28 NIV). The word oops is not in God’s vocabulary. Maybe God is saving you for a choice work.
We don’t know why God allows certain things to come into our lives. But God’s strength can show itself strongest during our weakest times.
Read more at http://www.wnd.com/2017/02/gods-unannounced-pop-quizzes/#fDDxLWBqSGaBwd0O.99